Most people would think that veterinarians would be the first professionals to support the concept that pets have sentimental value. After all, many veterinarians (particularly those in companion animal practice) witness the emotional attachment on a daily basis, and derive a substantial amount of their income from money that emotionally attached pet-owners spend on looking after their pet.

So why do you think the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) joined with other industry organisations to challenge the Courts finding that the legal “value” includes the animals “sentimental value”? The AVMA alleges that making veterinary professionals accountable (legally “liable”) for sentimental value would make pet care “unaffordable”. Really? Critics of the AVMA and TVMA action suggest that they are motivated by concerns about their own liability and potential financial loss, much more than concerns about the pet-owners willingness to find ways to pay for their pets care.

Back when speed-cameras were being introduced to catch those who were travelling at excessive speeds on the roads, there was a considerable amount of feedback claiming there would be all sorts of negative repercussions including, for example, loss of trust in state enforcement. Earl Nightingale (a speaker from that time period) said, “I can think of many reasons why people breaking the speed limit would not want speed cameras. In comparison, I can’t think of one reason why those people abiding by the law would worry about the cameras”.

Many people are of the view that the Courts will increasingly recognise the sentimental value of animals. New Zealand is one jurisdiction, for example, that within the last 24 months has seen three incidents where the courts have ordered payment in consideration of an animal’s sentimental value. With this precedent in place, it would arguably be remiss of a New Zealand lawyer not to consider this as a potential head of claim.

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